Advertisement
Advertisement

Best point-and-shoot camera 2019: The best compact cameras from £214

Dave Stevenson Amy Davies
3 Dec 2019
Advertisement

Ready to ditch your phone and upgrade to a smarter snapper? These are the compact cameras you need to be looking at

If you believed the hype, you’d think compact cameras were dead, killed off by smartphone cameras and ever-cheaper DSLRs. In fact, they’re alive and well, and there are plenty of reasons to choose one. They’re smaller than mirrorless or DSLR cameras, yet offer far better image quality than most smartphones. Many of them also pack powerful zoom lenses – something you won’t find on your mobile.

Compact cameras often also have a greater range of optional accessories, and they’re increasingly coming with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Plus, of course, you can shoot as much as you like without running down your smartphone’s battery.

So forget everything you’ve heard about the death of the compact camera – there’s plenty of awesome gear out there.

How to choose the best compact camera for you

So you’ve reached the limit of what you can do with your phone’s camera? Good for you! Now that it’s time to move on up, let us help you out: compact cameras do an enormous amount these days, and knowing exactly what to look for can be tricky. Here are technical terms untangled, movie modes demystified, and manual modes un-muddled.

Megapixels matter… or do they?

It’s tempting to think that more megapixels mean better pictures. But if the sensor is too densely packed with pixels, you can end up with noisy, grainy images. A slightly lower-resolution sensor may well take cleaner, brighter photos – and they’ll still be more than big enough to share or print. So don’t pick a camera just because it promises super-high-resolution images. Check out real-world images – like ours, let’s say – and look at the overall quality.

Zoom, zoom, zoom

Although the number of smartphones offering telephoto lenses has increased exponentially in recent years, there’s still a decent chance your smartphone doesn’t have a zoom lens, so this remains a major advantage of compact cameras. Zoom ratios are often expressed in multiples, so a 10x zoom lens magnifies your view by up to ten times. Zoom lenses might also be measured in millimetres: to compare these, look for the “35mm equivalent” length. Anything beyond 100mm is considered telephoto, and anything beyond 300mm should be good for long-range subjects such as wildlife or sports.

Another thing to look out for is the maximum aperture of a lens. Measured in f-stops, an aperture of f/2.8 or lower indicates a lens that should perform fairly well in low light. Higher numbers mean that less light gets through, so low-light performance will be worse.

Manual handling

Part of the joy of a point-and-shoot camera is you don’t have to worry about the technical process: just point it at something pretty, press the button and enjoy the results. But if you’ve got ambitions beyond pointing and shooting, look out for a manual mode that lets you set the camera’s shutter speed or aperture yourself – the best way to ensure completely sharp shots of challenging subjects, or to get creative with your visual effects.

Love connection

Almost all modern cameras include some form of connectivity, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth being the most popular. You can still use a cable or a card reader to transfer your pictures to your computer, but wireless connectivity comes in very handy when you’re out and about and want to quickly share your shots on the move. This kind of connectivity is also useful for remotely controlling your camera, which is great for selfies and group shots. Also look out for GPS; this allows you to automatically geotag your images, so you can always pinpoint where they were taken.

READ NEXT: Casting the net wider? If you don’t want to limit your search to compact cameras, check out our guide to the best compact, CSC and DSLR cameras

The best point-and-shoot cameras to buy in 2019 

1. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II: A perfectly portable camera

Price: £390 | Buy now from Amazon

The PowerShot G9 X Mark II has a spectacularly slim design, which makes it properly pocket-sized. It also offers a full-on manual mode, plus shutter and aperture priority modes, making this a great compact for those with some photographic experience – or wanting to gain it. It’s all controlled via the touchscreen on the back, though; experienced shooters might find that fiddly, compared to the dials they’re used to.

Elsewhere there’s plenty to like. The G9 X Mark II can be controlled using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth; the latter is slightly kinder to the camera’s 1,250mAh battery. And the million-pixel, 3in touchscreen monitor looks great and is easy to use.

Performance is good, particularly for the price. You can shoot a little over eight frames per second in both JPEG and RAW; if you want the autofocus to re-evaluate after each shot the speed drops to just over five frames per second. Video is only 1080p, rather than 4K, but quality is excellent, and you can film at 50fps for slow-motion footage. In all, it’s a great camera for those who want top-notch stills and the ultimate in portability.

Key specs – Sensor: 20.1 1.0-type sensor; Lens: 28-84mm, f/2-4.9; ISO range: 125-12,800; Still image format: JPEG, RAW; Movie modes: 1080, 50p, 25p; 720, 25p; Exposure modes: Auto, PASM; Display: 3in, 1,040,000-pixel screen; Connectivity: Micro USB, Wi-Fi, NFC; Claimed battery life: 235 stills (355 eco mode); Dimensions: 98 x 58 x 31mm (WDH); Weight: 206g

2. Canon PowerShot SX740 HS: A huge zoom at a great price

Price: £329 | Buy now from Amazon

Like the Nikon A900 (see below), the SX740 HS is all about reach. Its 40x lens is equivalent to a 24-960mm DSLR lens. That immense range is more than enough to cover virtually all wildlife or sporting events.

The trade-off is a relatively small sensor: the 20.3-megapixel, 2/3in CMOS sensor isn’t best suited to capturing clean detail in low light. The SX740 HS doesn’t offer a RAW mode either, so it’s not ideal for those who want to perfect their images in post-production.

Still, if shooting at night isn’t a priority, you’ll find the SX740 HS a flexible little beast. Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth all rock out, while the 3in screen can be angled to face forward for selfie duties. It isn’t a touchscreen, but the jog-wheel on the right-hand side provides plenty of quick control, and manual, shutter and aperture priority modes are available from the menu.

You can shoot video in 4K video modes, you get enough manual modes to help knowledgeable photographers, and enough lens to keep the most ardent wildlife fans happy, all in a dinky package that barely tips the scales at 299g.

Overall picture quality is best in good light, but if you’re thinking of packing it for your holiday camera, that might be all that matters.

Key specs – Sensor: 20.3 1/2.3 type sensor; Lens: 24-960mm, f/3.3-6.9 lens; ISO range: 100-3,200; Still image format: JPEG; Movie modes: 4K, Full HD, HD; Exposure modes: Auto, PASM; Display: 3in, 922,000-pixel screen; Connectivity: micro-USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Claimed battery life: 265 stills (370 eco mode); Dimensions: 110.1 x 63.8 x 39.9mm (WDH); Weight: 300g

3. Panasonic TZ200: Best for travel compromise

Price: £622 | Buy now from Amazon

When you’re travelling and don’t want to be weighed down with something heavy and cumbersome, a compact camera can be the ideal tool for the job. However, image quality can often take a battering when shooting with teeny tiny sensors. Cameras like the TZ200, which feature a larger one-inch sensor, represent a sort of halfway house that offers a good compromise between image quality and portability.

Traditionally, cameras with one-inch sensors have been a little lacklustre when it comes to zoom capability but, again, the TZ200 offers a good compromise, giving you a 15x optical zoom to play with.

Other features are super useful, too, including 4K Video and Photo, the ability to charge via USB (great when you’re on the go) and wireless connectivity via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Image quality, while not on a par with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, is still very good, and considering it should just about fit in your pocket, there’s not too much more you could ask for.

As well as point-and-shoot automatic options, you also have the opportunity to take manual control, as well as shooting in RAW format, so it’s ideal for both beginners and those who are a little more experienced.

Arguably, the camera is a little on the expensive side when compared to some of its small-sensored competition, but when you look at models like the Sony RX100 VI, this Panasonic offers decent value for money.

Key specs – Sensor: 20.1 MP 1.0-inch type sensor; Lens: 26-390mm f/3.3-6.4 lens; ISO range: 125-6,400 (native); Still image format: JPEG, RAW; Movie modes: 4K, Full HD, HD, Slo-Mo; Exposure modes: Auto, PASM, Scene, Creative Control; Connectivity: Micro USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Claimed battery life: 370 stills; Dimensions: 111.2 x 66.4 x 45.2 mm; Weight: 340g with battery and memory card

4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 II: Best for manual photography

Price: £849 | Buy now from Amazon

We loved the original LX100, which featured a large Four-Thirds sensor in a dinky(ish) body that was great for travelling. Image quality was fantastic thanks to the much larger-than-average sensor, while it also had a good range of exposure options for those with varying degrees of experience.

After waiting for what seemed like an age, but was more like four years, Panasonic finally updated its model towards the end of 2018. The Mark II is more like an incremental refresh of its predecessor than a widespread overhaul, but none-the-less it brings in some interesting new features.

There’s a new touch-sensitive screen, an array of new 4K Photo options to help you capture split-second moments, additional creative shooting modes, plus the ability to charge the camera via USB (always handy when travelling).

It keeps what was great about the original camera, including a large Four-Thirds sensor and a 24-75mm f/1.8-f/2.8 lens. That might sound limited compared to some of the megazooms available here, but it’s still a pretty flexible option for most situations.

Key specs – Sensor: 17MP 4/3-type sensor; Lens: 24-75mm, f/1.7-2.8 lens; ISO range: 200-25,600 (native); Still image format: JPEG, RAW; Movie modes: 4K, 30p, 25p; 1080, 50p, 25p; 720, 25p; Exposure modes: Auto, PASM; Creative modes; Connectivity: USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Claimed battery life: 340 stills; Dimensions: 115 x 66.2 x 64.2mm (WDH); Weight: 392g

5. Sony RX100 VI: The best for performance junkies

Price: £1,099 | Buy now from Amazon

The price of the RX100 VI is not for the faint-hearted. Still, if you want the ultimate pocket power house and don’t want to compromise, it’s a fantastic option.

Sony’s RX100 series, now in its sixth iteration, has proven to be very popular with enthusiasts looking for a travel or always-have-on-you type camera. Every time a new version arrives, it brings with it the latest and greatest in compact camera technology, and the Mark VI is no exception.

Joining the larger (than average) 20.1 megapixel one-inch sensor is an 8.3x optical zoom, giving you a very flexible equivalent of 24-200mm – all in something you can squeeze neatly into your pocket. Remarkably, you also get a high-resolution viewfinder, and a touch-sensitive tilting screen.

Focusing is quick and impressive, and you can shoot at an incredible 24fps. It really is a pocket power-house. But at over £1,000, you’ll need to really want it. If your budget is more conservative, take a look at some of the older RX100 models, which vary in price.

Key specs – Sensor: 20.1 1.0-type sensor; Lens: 24-200mm, f/1.8-4.5 lens; ISO range: 125-12,800 (native); Still image format: JPEG, RAW; Movie modes: 4K, 25p; 1080, 50, 25p; 720, 25p; Exposure modes: Auto, PASM; Scene, Display: 3in, 1,228,800-pixel screen; Connectivity: Micro-USB, Wi-Fi, NFC; Claimed battery life: 240 stills, 40 minutes movie; Dimensions: 101.6 x 58.1 x 42.8mm (WHD); Weight: 301g

6. Nikon Coolpix A900: Best for 4K video with a huge zoom

Price: £214 | Buy now from Amazon

The A900 is quite an old model now, but don’t jump to discount it – especially as it’s available at a cracking price. Start zooming in on the Coolpix A900 and you’ll soon see why this camera deserves a place here. From its widest setting it whirrs right up to an amazing 35mm equivalent of 840mm – substantially longer than the giant lenses you see nestled around the edges of a Premier League football match on a Saturday afternoon. That makes the A900 more than competent for wildlife and sports photography, and there’s a decent manual mode, including shutter and aperture priority, for knowledgeable photographers to choose if they wish.

The Nikon offers both a 3in display and a jog-wheel on the back, with another dial at the top right-hand corner – so it’s quick and tactile to control.

The feature list is well stacked too: you can record 4K video at 25fps, and connect to your phone by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The 3in monitor makes up for its lack of touch-ability by offering plenty of flexibility – it can fold down, to help shoot over the top of things, or rotate all the way round to face the front for selfies.

The compromise is the sensor. Where other cameras here offer 1in or even Micro 4/3” sensors, the A900 has a standard issue 2/3in sensor with 20.3 tightly-packed megapixels sitting on it. So, once the sun goes down, you should expect to see some drop-off in image quality. If you can stick to good light, though, this little miracle packs a hefty wallop in a satisfyingly tiny package.

Key specs – Sensor: 20.3 1/2.3 type sensor; Lens: 24-840mm, f/3.4-6.9 lens; ISO range: 80-3,200; Still image format: JPEG; Movie modes: 4K, 35p, 1080, 50p, 25p; 720, 25p; Exposure modes: Auto, PASM; Connectivity: micro-USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Claimed battery life: 270 stills, 50 minutes movie at 1080, 30p; Dimensions: 113 x 40 x 67mm (WDH); Weight: 298g

7. Olympus Tough TG-5: Best for adventure seekers

Price: £326 | Buy now from Amazon

If your idea of a relaxing holiday includes doing anything but – trekking up mountains, snorkelling or, okay, lazing about on the beach – then a camera like the TG-5 could be right up your street.

It’s got a decent sensor with a 4x optical zoom (25-100mm) which produces good results in murky underwater conditions. It’s shockproof and dustproof, too.

A bunch of other features also make it appealing, such as inbuilt Wi-Fi, 4K video, a Pro capture mode and the ability to shoot in RAW mode. It’s a well-rounded model that appeals to both beginners and enthusiasts who all share the desire to shoot in conditions with which your mobile phone might otherwise struggle.

Key specs – Sensor: 12 MP 1/2.3 type sensor; Lens: 25-100mm, f/2.0-4.9 lens; ISO range: 100-12,800; Still image format: JPEG, RAW; Movie modes: 4K, 30p, 25p 1080p, 720p; Exposure modes: Auto, PAM; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB; Claimed battery life: N/A; Dimensions: 113 x 66 x 31.9mm (WHD); Weight: 250g

8. Canon G1X Mark III: The best for DSLR fans

Price: £940 | Buy now from Amazon

This interesting camera might not be quite as pocket-friendly as the others featured on the list, but it is the only one here to sport an actual DSLR-sized (APS-C) sensor.

Alongside that, you’ve got a 3x optical zoom, which may not be as flexible as a super zoom but still gives you plenty to work with in most situations. DSLR-like in its operation as well as its sensor, the G1X Mark III has all the manual control you could ever crave, as well as RAW format shooting.

There’s a decent viewfinder (if a little on the small side) and an articulating touch-sensitive screen, too. There are a couple of downsides, such as video limited to Full HD and a fairly short battery life, but, particularly if you’re already a Canon shooter, having a miniature DSLR is a big draw.

Price is a big factor here, too, though: you’ll be coughing up the best part of a grand to get your hands on one of these beauties. However, it could just be the camera that you have with you at all times, making the value go up just a touch.

Key specs – Sensor: 24.2 MP APS-C type sensor; Lens: 24-72mm, f/2.8-5.6 lens; ISO range: 100-25,600; Still image format: JPEG, RAW; Movie modes: 1080p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p; 720p; Exposure modes: Auto, PASM; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, micro-USB; Claimed battery life: 200 stills; Dimensions: 115 x 77.9 x 51.4mm (WHD); Weight: 399g

Read more

Best Buys